Pablo Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, printmaker, sculptor, ceramicist, and stage designer. Many experts regard Picasso as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century.
Credited as the cocreator of Cubism, Picasso lives on in his enormous body of work. The Spaniard with the piercing, somber eyes, who superstitiously believed his work would keep him alive, devoted himself to honing his craft and contributing significantly to the development of modern art.
Pablo Picasso (born Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispín Crispiniano María Remedios de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso) was born in Málaga, Andalusia, Spain, on October 25, 1881. Born into a middle-class family, Picasso was the son of María Picasso y López and Don José Ruiz y Blasco.
Picasso’s father worked as a curator of a local museum and professor of art at the School of Crafts. Renowned for his natural depiction of birds, Ruiz is believed to have been descended from a family of aristocrats.
When Picasso was born, the medical staff reportedly believed he was stillborn following complications in labor. Extremely small for his gestation, he was left on a side table while the nurses tended to his mother. It was only when Picasso’s uncle blew cigar smoke and the baby started to cry that the mistake was revealed. Picasso’s uncle, a doctor, saved his life.
Pablo Picasso’s first word was “lapiz,” the Spanish word for pencil. As a young boy, he followed in the footsteps of his father and showed a flair for art early on. By the age of 10, Picasso became his father’s pupil and staged his first exhibition at the age of 13.
In the autumn of 1895, the family relocated to Barcelona. Here, Picasso entered the La Llotja art academy, where his father took a post as a professor of drawing. In 1897 Picasso’s Science and Charity painting, featuring his father as the doctor, received an honorable mention at the Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid.
In 1900 Pablo Picasso embarked on his first trip to Paris, then regarded as the art capital of Europe. Here, he befriended the Parisian poet and journalist Max Jacob, who helped Picasso to learn the language and more about French literature. The duo shared an apartment, where Picasso slept during the day and Jacob slept at night. For Picasso, his first stay in Paris was marked by a period of severe cold, poverty, and desperation. In fact, he had to burn his work just to keep the tiny apartment warm.
Starting in 1901 and ending in 1904, Picasso’s Blue Period is characterized by somber paintings in blue to blue-green hues, occasionally warmed by other colors. Picasso returned to Paris toward the end of 1901, and many of his paintings from the Blue Period depict gaunt mothers and children as well as sex workers and people begging for food.
Picasso’s Rose Period, from 1904 to 1906, is a total contrast, characterized by a lighter style and tone. Incorporating vibrant oranges and pinks, this period’s works depict circus people, harlequins, and acrobats. It was in 1904 in Paris that the artist met the bohemian artist Fernande Olivier, who subsequently became his mistress. She appears in several of Picasso’s Rose Period paintings, many of which reflect his warm relationship with her.
Throughout his career, Picasso had an eclectic attitude toward style. Although each work was generally characterized by a single dominant approach, he flitted between different styles, occasionally in the same piece. Credited with Georges Braque as a pioneer of the Cubist movement, Picasso also delved deeply into Surrealism and Symbolism, contributing a great deal to both movements.
Picasso’s other periods include the African Period, when he was inspired by the art of ancient Egypt and traditional African masks, in addition to non-African influences including Iberian sculpture and the art of El Greco and Paul Cézanne. He also experimented with Neoclassicism. However, it is for his Cubist works that the artist is best known. Today, Cubism is credited as one of the most influential art movements of all time, and has impacted artists for well over a century.
Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings include:
· The Soup (1902)
· La Vie (1903)
· The Old Guitarist (1903–04)
· Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907)
· Ma Jolie (1911–12)
· Figures at the Seaside (1931)
· Portrait of Dora Maar (1937)
· Guernica (1937)
· The Weeping Woman (1937)
Pablo Picasso died at his French home on April 8, 1973, succumbing to pulmonary edema and heart failure during a dinner party he had staged with his wife. His artistic legacy remains immense, and he is acknowledged today by admirers and detractors alike. He was the first artist to be honored by the Louvre Museum in Paris with a Grand Gallery exhibition. With a body of work created over eight decades and made of some 150,000 separate pieces, he was one of the world’s most prolific, imaginative, and innovative artists of all time.